Send to

Opposition parties join hands to regulate internet portals

April 24, 2018 - 17:19 By Kim So-hyun
Three opposition parties agreed to work on regulating large internet portals’ news service and comments sections in the wake of an opinion rigging scandal involving former ruling party members.

In addition to editing and arranging news articles, Web portals in Korea show the number of clicks on each article, the rankings of the most searched keywords on a real-time basis, and places comments that get the most “likes” at the top of the comment box below the articles.

The leaders and whips of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party, the Bareunmirae Party and the Party for Democracy and Peace said after a meeting on Monday that they would “join forces to improve the portals and the public opinion poll system.”


Liberty Korea Party chairman Hong Joon-pyo vowed to push for legislation that requires all portals to adopt an “out-link” system which redirects users to the websites of newspapers or broadcasters when they click on the headlines shown on the portals.

Korean portals like Naver use an “in-link” system that shows the articles and runs the comments section within the portal sites, whereas most foreign portals such as Google “out-link” -- directing users to read news articles on media websites.

“Using the in-link system, portals are making a fortune out of advertising revenues by selling news without employing a single journalist,” Hong said in a press conference.

“Manipulation of public opinion is possible at portals by rigging the rankings of popular comments. … We will change that through legislation.”

A Liberty Korea Party legislator has already proposed a revision to the Newspaper Act that requires portals to out-link news articles.

“Portals’ news services that distort public opinion and undermine democracy need a complete overhaul,” said Park Joo-sun, co-chair of the Bareunmirae Party.

Cho Bae-sook, chairwoman of the Party for Democracy and Peace, called for legislation that requires the use of real names for online comments.

The three opposition parties are also expected to discuss scrapping the system that allows portal users to “recommend” certain comments on news articles.

Several members of the ruling Democratic Party agree that measures to strengthen the responsibility of portal operators are necessary.

Demands for tighter regulations on portals in the past fell through each time upon the logic that they violate the freedom of expression. A law requiring the use of real names online was ruled unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court in 2012.

The latest comment-rigging scandal, however, showed how public opinion can easily be manipulated online for political purposes, building a consensus among lawmakers that the skewed opinion was reflected in polls.

An influential blogger who goes by the alias “Druking” and two others were arrested and indicted earlier this month for allegedly using software in January to artificially ramp up the number of clicks in support of critical comments against the Moon Jae-in administration.

Opposition parties suspect Druking, a former Democratic Party member, could have rigged opinion online ahead of the presidential election as he was found to have been in contact with Rep. Kim Kyung-soo of the ruling party, one of President Moon’s most trusted aides, since 2016.

Accusing the police of being too slow and lax in its investigation, the three opposition parties have called for an independent counsel probe and a parliamentary inquiry into the case.

By Kim So-hyun (